Which Diet Should I Follow?

With so much diet advice flowing around the internet nowadays, it’s no wonder that people can get very confused, very easily.  One of the most common questions that people have is what type of diet to go on?  A low carb diet?  Low fat?  Fruits and veggies (**sigh…**)?

Well, there’s not one diet that is superior to all the other ones.  If there were, then everyone would just be doing that one.  So what I am going to do is explain the advantages and disadvantages to different types of diets and let you decide which one would be best for you.  =)

A lot of myths came about in the 90’s.  This was mostly due to people just trying to make sense out of nutrition since there was nowhere near the amount of research available then as there is now.  The 90’s (maybe 80’s too) can be categorized as the Low-Fat diet.  People decided that since we are trying to lose fat when we go on a diet, we should just eat less fat so that it would not be deposited into our fat deposits.

Now, to be fair, they were almost on to something. Carbs and especially protein don’t convert to fat very easily, so it would make sense to just eat less fat right?  Then the carbs would go into our glycogen storages as glucose and the protein would be used to build muscle, right?  Well, not exactly…

See, carbs don’t normally convert into fat very easily, except with a few exceptions. One of which is when fat intake is very low, or less than about 10% of the total calories you consume in a day.  When this happens then your body will start to convert the carbs into fat.

OK, now you might say to just keep the fat at around 15% and then you will lose weight regardless of carb or protein intake.  Again, this would have worked, if our bodies were not an super adaptable machine!  It has been discovered that when you eat more carbs, your body will get more of it’s fuel from carbs (and not from fat storages).  The same is true with protein, tho not as significantly.  This means that when you eat more carbs, your fat in your belly will stay put and allow your body to burn more of its total calories from carbs.  Therefore, most people conclude that a high carb, low fat diet is just not very good for fat loss.

And Then People Make a 180 Degree Shift

After the low fat craze, came the low carb craze.  They thought that if they were to eat more fat, the body would burn more of it’s total calories from fat then.  Well, this turned out to not be true.  It is ture for carbs and protein, but not fat.  However, these people were definitely on to something…

Once people started realizing that insulin was produced in effect to consuming carbs (as insulin lowers blood sugar), people started thinking.  See, insulin can be called the Transport Hormone, as it basically pushes protein and creatine into muscle cells, and glucose into glycogen storages (which is why it’s good to have an insulin spike post-workout, but that is for another article).  However, insulin also inhibits fat oxidation.  This means that when you eat carbs, the rate at which you burn fat decreases!  Also, remember from above that as you eat more carbs, your body burns more carbs.  So looking at these two facts, people came to the conclusion that carbs were evil and should never be eaten (or at least not eaten very much) while dieting!  Alas, here came the Atkins diet and other one’s of the same breed.

So what’s wrong with this?  Well, actually this is still very much debated today.  Some people love low carb diets, as the fat makes them feel fuller throughout the day.  Even recently, many people have witnessed great achievements while on the  Protein Sparing Modified Fast (PSMF) and a branch off it it, Lyle McDonald’s Rapid Fat Loss Handbook.  These diets are Very low carb with high protein and moderate fat.  These diets work well for some people, and they start dropping fat.  For others, they might stay on a diet that ends up being too low in calories and their body puts them into “starvation mode” by slowing their metabolism which makes it harder to keep losing the weight.  This is why is it very important to have a “cheat day” or at the very least a cheat meal once a week.  This cheat day should include a lot of carbs so that your body reverses some of the effects of being on a low carb diet (these effects are out of the scope of this article, I’ll write an article about them another time).  Also, on a very low carb, low calorie diet like these, you will not be able to workout at intensely and it will take you longer to recover.  As a last note on this topic, do not be afraid to kick-start a normal diet with a very low carb, low calorie diet.  Many people have found this to be effective to help them lose a little bit of more fat right from the beginning… Just don’t stay on it too long.  Kick-starting a diet this way also might help the person psychologically because he may see effects sooner rather than later.

All in all, currently most people find that if they lower their caloric intake with most of that reduction coming from carbs (NEVER protein! In fact, most people eat more protein while dieting to preserve muscle mass), they tend to lose fat without too much of a problem.  The recommendation for a moderate drop in calories is around 11-12 X your bodyweight in lbs.  So, a 180lbs individual would consume somewhere between 1980 and 2160 calories, and remember to keep your protein intake at least at 1g/lbs of body weight.  However, this is not taking your Lean Body Mass (LBM) into consideration, so for a more in-depth look on specifics of a diet if you know your LBM, you have to wait for a future article =) .
Finally, if you consider yourself a person who has a hard time losing weight, then I’ll suggest that you take a look at:
Easy-Gainers and Hard-Gainers